Home / World According to Don / Retiring from Racing

As I sit in my chair in my new house enjoying the view of the sky and our back yard, I’ve decided it’s time I share my decision about retiring from bike racing. It was a decision made in July at USA Mountain Bike Nationals in Mammoth Lakes, California. I had a great weekend of racing there where I won two bronze medals, one in the 65+ cross country, and one in the 60+ Enduro. My preparation was good until a week before we moved.  I still had a couple of great races and at some point during the cross country race, which was first, I decided that the Enduro would be my last race. It came to me that after 50 years of racing, and over 30 years of racing mountain bikes,  I really had no more goals to reach. I have been a national champion, I was a pioneer and was on the podium twice at the inaugural Mountain Bike Worlds, I have raced endurance events and I even did quite well in cyclocross. My road career, well let’s just say it gave me a good start.

I’m not retiring from cycling, I’m not even stopping my weekly training regime. I’m sticking with my weights, intervals and medium-long rides. I am still going to try and improve my skills, though with caution.

There is no regret for me having raced for 50 years. The number of friends I have made, the challenges I have faced, the learning about training, the places I have seen and ridden. The pluses outweigh the minuses by a huge factor. And yes I will miss it.

Why then retire when so many masters continue to race into their 80s and 90s and even 100s? Health is one reason. I have never thought racing is good for ones health, in fact I believe the opposite. Being active, yes, but racing I feel puts the body through too much stress. I want less stress. Achievement? Well, in mountain biking older people can’t start this sport and be competitive easily. My guess is if I continue to race at nationals the same top racers will show up until they become injured, ill, or deceased. I guess this a bit morbid but I feel I have tested myself against the best and I don’t want to just keep repeating it. Injury? Racing is about pushing oneself to the limit, both up and down. It’s time I reined that in a bit. I take pride in my skills, but always pushing to go faster doesn’t seem prudent any more. As I said before I’ve won about all I can win and I just don’t feel the drive to continue.

Motivation is why I think  many people race. But it’s not the reason I raced. I raced because I was good and I was fit. I never entered a race unprepared. I was never one of those people who say on the starting line ” I’m out of shape, I haven’t been training”. I started every race in shape, hoping to win, knowing I would be fit enough to have my best race. I love being outside, I love riding my bike. I even like (not love) doing intervals on my trainer. I simply don’t need events to motivate me.

This racing retirement is similar to my Sunnyside Sports participation. I sold Sunnyside Sports I did not quit working. I have stopped racing but I have not stopped being in shape and riding. I went to Switzerland this summer to ride, I don’t know what adventures are in store for me, I do know there will be many more.

  1. Don,
    Congratulations on a great racing career. You’ve been a mentor, motivator, coach, counselor and inspiration too many, including me.

    Sooner or later we are all going to reach the same decision as you. The young guys will experience how as the years go on you ask yourself those questions more and more.

    Sure you don’t just want to become a triathlete? Lots of new challenges there.

    Enjoy “retirement”.

  2. Congratulation, Don, a most impressive career. I will greatly miss you at the races and who knows how long I will continue. Use racing as a motivator for staying fit, but previous injuries are taking their toll and current crashes take forever to recover.
    I am finding long mountain bike rides on new trails succeeding more satisfying than going to the same venues to race. So who knows how long I will hold out.
    Still having fun racing cross.
    Hope to see you in the saddle.

  3. Scott Sampson says:

    Sorry to hear this Don. I was hoping for some more chances to try and chase you…..
    Good luck on your future endeavors.

  4. This makes the end of a era and what can I say other than THANK YOU! I have known Don for over 20 years and Don was the main instigator for the High Cascades 100 when that thought crossed my mind in 2008.
    Don was one of the few Bend people to embrace the challenge of racing and to that challenge the win at Mudslinger after many attempts among his countless victories!
    What Don has given me is too hard to place in words as my life or motivation would not be the same without the influence of Don Leet! I consider Don an amazing person and good friend and I hope he will find time to relax and enjoy the life without racing that he deserves!

  5. Congratulations on your retirement. I know this wasn’t an easy decision for you to make, but I’m sure there’s great stuff coming up for you in this community.

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